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Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Heard: UT recruiting news and notes

By William Wilkerson and Max Olson

Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's 2014-heavy edition of The Heard:
Read The Heard after the jump.

Croaker has a leader

Three-star shooting guard Demarcus Croaker (Orlando, Fla./Jones) is nearing a decision. It’s come down between Murray State, a team he was once committed to, and Texas.

Right now, one school holds the lead as he makes the turn for the home stretch.

“Texas,” he said. “Texas is in the lead.”

Reggie Rankin
Texas leads for former Murray State commit Demarcus Croaker.

Croaker, who is 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, is rated as the No. 12 player in Florida and the No. 43 shooting guard in the country.

He had been committed to Murray State since December but decommitted in late February, giving the Longhorns a potential steal.

Croaker didn’t waste much time letting Texas know he was extremely interested by setting up a visit on March 4 to see the Longhorns close out their home schedule against Baylor.

“We went around the school and saw everything,” Croaker said. “Went to the practice facility, talked with coaches and went out to eat a couple of times. I was just meeting everybody.”

Croaker has struck up friendships with Javan Felix, Ioannis Papapetrou and Myck Kabongo as of late. They have helped sale a young team with a promising future to Croaker, who keeps that at the front of his mind when thinking about UT, and not their 15-16 record.

“I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it as they are young so they are learning a lot about the game,” he said. “I think they are the youngest team in the NCAA right now.

“I think if I go in and do what I’ve got to do, I’m willing to work for what I want. Of course I want that starting two-guard position. But I think I can come in and make an impact on the team and help win more games.

“Plus playing with a young team, within two years the team chemistry is going to be there. So if you are running with some guys you’ve been running with for a while you are going to keep developing throughout the years. I mean why wouldn’t you want that.”

It’s all about being comfortable for Croaker so being able to play with a group of young players with a chance to mold into a seasoned squad is intriguing.

Croaker is quick to admit that his athleticism is his best trait and that he’d bring plenty of high-flying action to Texas if he ends up a Longhorn.

He recently tweeted a picture of him in the air side-by-side with Lebron James and a caption that reads, “For those of you that think Lebron got ups ... Old pic.” In it James is flying through the air showing a vertical leap of 40.3 inches. Croaker’s reads 41.1.

That’s saying something, especially when you consider that he wasn’t even fully healthy.

“The picture I tweeted I had jumped a 41.1 and my ankle was sprained,” he said.

Croaker said his vertical is over 42 inches. He first dunked when he was in sixth grade. – William Wilkerson

Alabama commit will visit Horns

When Deionte Thompson made his verbal commitment to Alabama on Feb. 23, he knew what would come next.

After all, it’s not too often a kid from Texas receives his very first offer from the Crimson Tide. The West Orange-Stark standout anticipated his pledge would only lead to more serious interest from big-time programs, and he was right.

“They’ve picked up a lot,” Thompson said. “I know Texas and Texas A&M are on me pretty hard.”

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound safety prospect said he committed during his Alabama visit because Nick Saban made the place feel like home. Still, that’s not going to stop Thompson from checking out schools closer to his home. First up is Texas.

“I’ll be at their spring game, because I’m going down there the same week as Texas Relays,” he said.

Thompson has been in touch with recruiter Bo Davis and has always been a big fan of the Longhorns. Seeing two other West Orange-Stark defensive backs thrive in Austin was a big reason.

“Texas was always my dream school growing up with Earl Thomas and Deon Beasley. I’ve always known it was a great school,” he said. “When Vince Young won a national championship, that’s when I became a big Texas fan. I grew up watching Jamaal Charles and just to see him get that national attention was big.”

Now Texas is back in the Golden Triangle and trying to flip one of the state’s most touted sophomore prospects.

Thompson said even though he’s still committed, he wants to explore all his options and plans to do so this spring and summer. Thompson will also attend Texas A&M’s junior day on April 13. The Aggies are recruiting him as a receiver/defensive back athlete.

A few weeks have passed, but Thompson still has a hard time believing he’s already a Crimson Tide commit. He definitely never expected that and didn’t think this recruiting process would start up for another year.

“I really don’t know why they offered,” he said. “I don’t know. I think it was the sophomore season I had. It was a big season for me. I had a chip on my shoulder. I played [junior varsity] my freshman year, and there were guys I knew weren’t better than me who got placed on varsity.

“I don’t know. I guess I haven’t grasped the feeling yet of getting all this attention.”

Thompson should get used to it. After racking up 55 tackles and six interceptions in 2012, he’s in for a lot more attention over these next few years. – Max Olson

McGraw high on Texas

With Ed Paris, Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Nick Harvey already committed elsewhere, might Texas find one of its 2014 safety commits from outside the state?

Keep an eye on Mattrell McGraw. We did a Q&A with him on Wednesday that you can find here, and the River Ridge (La.) John Curtis defensive back is serious about checking out what the Longhorns have to offer.

McGraw said he is likely going to attend Texas’ spring game on March 30, and he caught up with Duane Akina on Tuesday night to find out about his offer status.

“Basically, they’re offering but they just want me to come visit to make it official,” he said.

That’s pretty standard -- the Longhorns prefer to offer an out-of-state prospect once he’s made it to campus -- but the 6-foot, 180-pound safety is no doubt on the radar.

In his past talks with Akina, McGraw said the coach has made it clear safety is a priority position in this Texas class.

“Him and coach Larry Porter are recruiting me, and they’re two great guys,” McGraw said. “They told me about their situation at defensive back and how many they’re losing and how I might possibly be able to go to Texas and start my freshman year. That’s definitely something I’m going to look into.”

The fact Texas is upping its recruiting efforts in Louisiana with Porter on the staff now is exciting to McGraw. He knows many of those elite New Orleans prospects that already hold UT offers.

The way McGraw sees it, an infusion of Louisiana talent would be a big step for the Longhorns to return to national powerhouse status.

“It’s a very good move. To be honest, I feel like Texas and Louisiana have the best football,” he said. “If you have the top Texas guys and some of the top Louisiana guys, man, that’s national championship-caliber.”

Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) is still the unquestioned top safety target for Texas right now, and Houston Lamar’s John Bonney is also high on UT’s board. But a visit from McGraw would go a long way toward making him a key target. – Max Olson

2015 Fla. RB in touch with Texas

Whether the Longhorns have a legitimate shot with Class of 2015 running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek) remains to be seen. But Texas has kept tabs on the budding star to let him know it is interested.

“I talked to them two weeks ago,” Patrick said. “They said they would review my film as a staff. I just haven’t been able to contact them since. I think they contacted my coach last week.”

The Longhorns originally got in touch with Patrick back in October when he and Major Applewhite spoke.

They are one of what seems like an entire country’s worth of programs that have inquired about his interest.

Patrick rushed for 1,162 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman while splitting time with three other backs. He had already surpassed those numbers by a wide margin by the time he and Applewhite spoke for the first time.

Right now, Florida is his favorite followed by Florida State and Miami.

“I named Florida the favorite because it is the school that I feel most comfortable at right now and can see myself playing there,” he said. “But I’m still open to all schools at this point in my recruitment.”

Patrick also has offers from the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA and USC.

Obviously, all three of his favorites are in-state schools but Patrick said he wouldn’t have an issue going out of state.

“I’m open to all schools. I’m not stuck on staying in state,” he said. “If I am comfortable with a school, like Michigan or Ohio State, then that’s a school I’d pick. I just want to go where I can feel comfortable, play early, contribute to the team and get a great education.”

In order for Patrick to go out of state, though, he said a school is going to have to blow him away with something unique.

“I just want to see if they can offer something different than the in-state programs,” he said. “I don’t want to go across the country, leave my family and it’s the same as what’s at home. I want to see if a school like Texas can offer me something better than what Florida could. If they can then that’s something that I’d be interested in.”

Patrick isn’t sure what that “something different” would consist of, but Texas could have the opportunity to show it to him sometime this summer when he travels to Texas for a family reunion.

“I am going to try to make plans to visit them when I come in for my family reunion this summer,” said Patrick, who couldn’t recall the exact date of the reunion.

Patrick recently attended a Florida junior day. He will be at Miami on March 9 and then will visit Florida State after that.

“It’s a blessing,” Patrick said of the attention he’s already received. “I embrace it. But I don’t let it get to my head. I still have to get my schoolwork done. If I don’t work hard then somebody out there will try and get an edge on me.” – William Wilkerson

Williams wants to be fastest in state

McKinney (Texas) wide receiver T.V. Williams has a personal goal of becoming the fastest wide receiver in the state next season.

“I am trying to be the fastest receiver in Texas and I think I’m pretty close if not already there,” Williams said. “Modestly, I would say I am one of the fastest. I went out last summer and kind of proved that. I went out and ran sub 4.4. My fastest time is 4.31. I am pushing to get to that 4.2.”

So what’s it feel like to fly?

“You can sort of tell when you run a good time because you are gliding,” he said. “You aren’t making a lot of noise. When you stop and turn back all the coaches are looking at their watches, then they stare at you, then look back at their watches.”

Williams isn’t the biggest receiver, standing only 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, but his speed is undeniable and college coaches have taken notice.

Cal, Houston, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oregon State and Texas State have all offered while Oregon, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are showing heavy interest.

“It’s crazy,” Williams said. “You have to sit back sometime and really just think about it all.”

The Longhorns have recently inquired about Williams, who used his speed to catch 45 passes for 789 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.

“I’ve talked to Coach [Major] Applewhite a little but through Facebook,” Williams said. “We’ve talked a little bit. He was just telling me that they liked my film. I’m either going to come to their camp or they are going to come see me in the spring.”

The two first started trading messages a few days before the NFL Combine, when of course, Marquise Goodwin ran a 4.27 40.

“When Goodwin ran in the 40 I messaged Applewhite and was like ‘Goodwin is movin,’ and he said ‘Turn up,’ ” Williams said.

Williams is ready to turn it up his senior season. He knows there is no room for complacency despite already having these offers.

“I still have my senior season and even though I have offers I still play for McKinney High,” he said. “I still have my team and want to give them everything I have. I am trying to win a state championship. I’m never satisfied. I always want more.”

He’ll use his speed to help him get to where he needs to be.

“I use my speed to my advantage,” he said. “I am not the biggest guy but I’m not the smallest guy either. My upper body strength is really good and I can run really crisp routes. I can drop my hips in a heartbeat and come out full speed. I think colleges really like that.” – William Wilkerson

Philadelphia DB has interest

Another out-of-state defensive back who has some interest in Texas is Deandre Scott (Philadelphia/Imhotep Carter).

Though Carter claimed he had a UT offer earlier this spring, there hasn’t been much contact between the 5-foot-8, 165-pound safety and the UT coaching staff. Scott said a member of the Longhorns staff reached out to his head coach to express some interest.

“That was big for me because Texas is a real big school, and it’s far, too,” Scott said. “I don’t know a lot about Texas, but I do know they have a great football program.”

Scott knows he wouldn’t have a definite Texas offer unless he takes a visit. He’s looking into making a trip to Austin in the spring or summer.

Though he’s been focusing mostly on his track season, Scott does holds offers from 18 schools already. Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Boston College have shown the most interest so far, and West Virginia Rutgers have also been talking to him.

Most schools have been looking for Scott to play his preferred position of safety. He’d like to check out South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Arizona, among others, but growing up there were always two schools on top.

“As a young person I grew up watching Texas and Oregon play,” he said. “Texas was always a tough and aggressive team and they always played smart. I looked up to them when I was playing Pop Warner ball and their techniques. They know what they’re talking about up there.”

Scott will likely end up staying up North for his college ball, but if he does end up visiting Texas at some point in the next few months he could be a recruit to watch. – Max Olson

Texas early favorite for 2015 LB

One of the state’s more coveted 2015 prospects is Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson. Expect to see him at Texas’ Sophomore Day next weekend.

Jefferson recently got a good preview of what to expect. He spent this last weekend in Austin with friends, getting a tour of the campus from an uncle who works on campus.

“The gates were closed, but I got a good look at the stadium,” he said. “It’s humongous. The campus was huge. I almost got lost.”

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound linebacker already holds early offers from Oklahoma and Ole Miss, and Texas and Texas A&M have been showing strong interest recently.

Jefferson said he’s been talking with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who invited him to the big sophomore event on March 23.

“It’s going to be big. We’re young and we’re going to be very exciting to go to a big program like Texas,” he said. “The thing I’m most excited about is being around the college players and seeing how big they are and how hard they work. Hopefully I can play there one day.”

That was Jefferson’s goal growing up. While he was impressed by the first two offers he picked up, he’s looking forward to finding out if UT will make one soon.

“I did have a favorite school growing up, but they haven’t offered me yet. That would be Texas,” Jefferson said. “Another one would be Oregon. Those are my two favorites.”

He was pretty startled by the fact the Sooners were the first to offer and that they did so early on, but Jefferson knows he’s a long way away from narrowing things down or getting serious about his recruitment.

Whenever that day arrives, though, Jefferson said it’s a sure thing Texas will be in his top five. Getting in another visit this month only helps the Longhorns’ chances down the road. – Max Olson

2015 WR enjoyed Texas visit

The Longhorns will really ramp up their recruitment of 2015 prospects on March 23 when they host their first-ever Sophomore Day but their pursuit of current sophomores has already began.

That included their invitations to several 2015 prospects to their junior day on Feb. 23 where DeSoto (Texas) wide receiver Lamont Johnson first experienced Texas’ campus.

“It was a good experience,” Johnson said. “It was my first time so yeah I was very excited. My favorite part was experiencing their practice and how they run their organization. I liked how they ran their practice.”

Johnson made the trip along with fellow 2015 teammates Bryce English (DT) and Jatory Sparks-Brown (RB). He was able to catch up with Longhorns wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt in Austin.

“The receivers coach was telling me that I needed to keep my head on straight and that he was going to keep on watching me,” Johnson said.

Johnson wasn’t really sure what to expect from Texas before he got there, but he left with a brand new understanding of what the Longhorns are all about.

“I look at them way different now,” he said. “As a football organization, when I watched them I didn’t think they were that good but when I went down and visited and they showed me how very organized they were that changed my mind about them a lot.”

Johnson said he isn’t hearing from any other schools right now, but that should pick up substantially in 2013. – William Wilkerson

Have the Longhorns contacted Henderson at all?

I checked in with 2014 defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) earlier this week to see if the Longhorns had contacted him since he committed to TCU on Feb. 24. To my surprise, he said Texas has not.

One school that has inquired is Alabama. The Crimson Tide would like him to get out for a visit but Henderson said he wasn’t interested at the moment, and that he was TCU all the way.

Speaking of Alabama, Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) tells me the Crimson Tide offered him back in January. – William Wilkerson